The Stern Carving of the Royal Charles

P6185210newIt’s rare that I do any sculpture work anymore for film like I used to.  But this particular assignment really appealed to me for reasons that have nothing to do with money: recreate the stern carvings of the royal flagship that Michiel De Ruyter seized and towed from Chatham during his great naval triumph over the English at the Raid of the Medway in 1667. It just seemed to historically interesting to ignore. The film in question is the Dutch production “Michiel de Ruyter” being filmed in Zeeland (the Dutch province) and the wharves of Lelystad.  But the relevant scene concerns De Ruyter’s presentation of his trophy, the royal stern carvings, to the States General of the United Provinces, which was the republican government of the Netherlands at the time. This was being filmed in gothic city hall of Middelburg in Zeeland.

The original stern carvings, or “counter” as it’s officially called, are hanging in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in a gallery devoted to the De Ruyter era.  I had to scale it down a little bit for technical reasons (the original is 2½ x 3½ meters) but even making it out of high density polyurethane foam I still had an enormous challenge of volume.  With an assistant Rik and some more of the great folks in the De Ruyter art department we managed to get the still wet project in just under the wire. It was heroic!  And it looked beautiful in the (artificial) late afternoon light of the location in Middleburg.

Looking forward to viewing the film when it’s released.

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The Corpses of the Brothers De Witt

!cid_C7E832DB-C4DA-4524-B4AA-FBFE04EECCC1Another sculpture assignment I received from the production of the film “Michiel de Ruyter” was to recreate the cruelly lynched bodies of the brothers De Witt, a prominent Dutch politician from the 16th century and his brother who were attacked by an Orangist mob and lynched in the Hague.  Obviously there’s a serious story here, and I won’t try to commit it to this page (read it here), but it was famous and compelling enough to make me want to take up the job.

You might ask, why not just use actors?  But these corpses had to be eviscerated and lacerated to such a degree that that would be impractical. But engaging the services of one of the excellent special effects studios was budgetarily out of the question.  A compromise was found: me.  The production designer Ruben Schwarz and myself settled on the idea of culling various body parts from display mannequins, cutting them up and reattaching them.  Then we covered them with layers of hard casting wax colored with powdered pigments (from the paint mill De Kat).  This allowed us to cut into the surface skin to expose flesh.  Wax is actually quite forgiving, as long as  you aren’t filming in the extreme heat of the day.  Using wax kept the costs down and is a rather low-threshold material to work with.  We were rather pleased with the results, and so was the director.

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